CVIndependent

Sat08242019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Many of us recall reading Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling, back in grade school. Her book Cross Creek, and its resulting lawsuit, are less familiar.

Written in 1942, Cross Creek chronicles the fishermen and other backwoods folks living near Rawlings’ home in Alachua County, Fla. Most of the 121 characters in the book were apparently fine with Rawlings’ descriptions of them, but one—Zelma Cason—took definite offense and decided to sue. The trial, which was the first of its kind in Florida, is the basis for Dezart Performs’ latest production, Invasion of Privacy.

In Cross Creek, Zelma is not pleased about being described as “an ageless spinster resembling an angry and efficient canary.” (I wouldn’t be pleased, either.) Rawlings goes on to say about Cason: “I cannot decide whether she should have been a man or a mother. She combines the more violent characteristics of both and those who ask for or accept her ministrations think nothing at being cursed loudly at the very instant of being tenderly fed, clothed, nursed or guided through their troubles.” Cason claimed Rawlings did not have permission to write about her and sued for libel and invasion of privacy. She requested an award of $100,000.

Larry Parr’s play is based on transcripts from the 1943 trial and interviews with Rawlings’ husband, Norton Baskin. It’s a bit of a Southern soap opera, filled with colorful, hard-to-forget characters.

The role of Marjorie is the glue that holds the entire production together. Gina Bikales captures the author’s strength and righteous anger over being told what she can and cannot write about, but her depiction of the Rawlings’ personal struggles—with booze and her often-absent husband—don’t ring as true. The opening scenes with Bikales and Peter Nicholson (Norton Baskin) lack chemistry. In fact, it’s not until near the end of the play that we see even a shred of Marjorie’s vulnerability. When she laments the death of her beloved dog and goes on about how much she misses him, we somehow just don’t believe it. Because Bikales has a strong stage presence and an animated face, the character would be more interesting and more likable if she toned things down just a bit; too much gesturing can get distracting. Sometimes, less is more. However, Bikales’ scenes with Louise Ross, as Zelma, are effective.

Ross—who stepped into the role three weeks ago when Blanche Mickelson (whose photo is featured prominently on the program and in press materials) had to withdraw for personal reasons—does a fine job. In her tacky, down-home outfits—the costumes are all terrific—Ross charms us as boozing, tough-talking Zelma, although Zelma could have used a bit more energy and fire at times (particularly in the courtroom scene at the end of Act 1). She shares some nice moments with Marjorie in her bathroom (it’s the only warm room in the house, you see) as the two women pass a bottle of whiskey back and forth and try to make up. Though Marjorie has come armed with an apology and a peace offering (a cake), the effort fails, and the former friends end up madder than ever.

Peter Nicholson holds his own as Rawlings’ other half, Norton. He’s likeable onstage, but he, like Bikales, could use a few more levels to his character. It occasionally comes across as a one-note performance.

Corbett Brattin is thoroughly entertaining as Rawlings’ good-ol’-boy lawyer, Sigsbee Scruggs. After failing to convince Rawlings and her husband to settle the case, Scruggs digs in to the task at hand, although he takes a brief detour from his dedication to the cause to flirt with his opposing counsel in the empty courtroom. His suggestion that she get to know the other male lawyers in town by going hunting with them brings a well-deserved laugh. Brattin’s performance is well-crafted and funny, and may well garner him the Desert Theatre League award win he’s so far been denied.

But the true jewel in the cast is Yo Younger as Zelma’s attorney, Kate Walton. Always a standout, Younger can command the audience’s attention simply by standing at the edge of the stage and gazing forward: You can’t take your eyes off her. Call it charisma; call it presence—whatever you call it, Younger has it. Her performance is passionate and strong, yet also vulnerable. When her character recounts the sting of being chastised by her family for even considering law as a career, and then being called a hillbilly by her law-school classmates, we feel every ounce of her pain. However, she’s always in control, and never pushes too hard. Younger splits her time between the valley and Los Angeles. Hopefully she will continue to share her acting talent with desert audiences for years to come.

In a small role as Judge John Murphree, Jason Lewis has some nice comic moments, particularly when he directs those in the courtroom to sit without uttering a word. However, he could pump up his energy level and vocal volume a bit.

The play is nicely directed by soap-opera and stage veteran Judith Chapman. She deftly captures the mood of backwoods Florida in the 1940s. The blocking seems to flow naturally, and Chapman generally keeps the action moving at a good pace (though a couple of scene changes lagged a bit). Having the audience double as the jury in the courtroom scenes, with the lawyers speaking directly to us, is quite effective.

The split set—one half Marjorie’s back porch, and the other the courtroom (and briefly Zelma’s bathroom)—works quite well.

Dezart and artistic director Michael Shaw have once again chosen an entertaining play that has a deeper message: Do we have a right to privacy? More than 70 years after the Cross Creek trial, the answer to that question seems more elusive than ever. Here in 2014—the “Age of Information”—privacy seems all but impossible.

The Rawlings legal case took more than four years with appeals. It also took a huge toll on the writer’s career—she only published one more full novel in the decade after the trial.

Dezart’s Invasion of Privacy is thought-provoking theater that will spark much debate on the ride home.

Dezart Performs’ production of Invasion of Privacy takes place at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 9, at the Pearl McManus Theater at the Palm Springs Womans’ Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $22; or $18 for seniors, students and members of the military. Running time is two hours, with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-0179, or go to www.dezartperforms.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

Annenberg Theater

Rachel York, a singer and actress who played Lucille Ball in the CBS movie Lucy, performs at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19. $88. Actor, musician and writer Peter Gallagher presents his one-man show, How’d All You People Get in My Room?, featuring stories from his varied acting career—plus a band!—at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 22. $60 to $75. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Becoming Ava—from Desert Ensemble Theatre

This original tribute to the comedies of the 1940s and 1950s was penned by local Tony Padilla. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 1; 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, March 1 and 2. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476; brownpapertickets.com.

Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch—from Desert Theatreworks

Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch … Or the Perfumed Badge: An Ol’ Fashion’ Melodrama, is the latest show by the new Desert Theatreworks. At 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 2. $25; $23 students; special kids’ prices and group rates available. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Coyote StageWorks at the Annenberg Theater

The Andrews Brothers, a salute to the swinging ’40s, is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 16. The 39 Steps, a fast-paced whodunit comedy dubbed “Hitchcock Meets Hilarious,” is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 9. $39 to $55. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Desert Rose Playhouse

The midcentury modern film noir musical Nite Club Confidential stars Joey English as Kay Goodman. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 23. (The Saturday, Feb. 8, show is a 2 p.m. matinee.) $28 to $30. Diva Dish! With Luke Yankee features the son of Academy Award-winning actress Eileen Heckart telling tales about some of the 20th century’s biggest stars. 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 1; and 2 p.m., Sunday, March 2. $25 to $28. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

Hairspray

Actor/comedian Bruce Vilanch joins Broadway veterans and students from Musical Theatre University in Hairspray. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1; 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 2. $15 to $35. At the Helene Galen Performing Arts Center at Rancho Mirage High School, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage; www.hgpac.org.

Indian Wells Theater/CSUSB Palm Desert Events

The theater’s Tribute Series continues with Roy Orbison and Reba McEntire at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15; and the Ladies of Rock and Soul featuring Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin and Donna Summer, at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21. $40 first three rows; $35 remainder of the house. At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventstheater.html.

Indio Performing Arts Center

Honky Tonkin With Hank and Patsy, starring Bethany Owen and Cowboy Jack Johnson, is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 9. One Voice features Bethany Owen and her impressive impressions at 2 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, through Friday, Feb. 14. Just Let Me Vent, with ventriloquist Rob Watkins, takes place at 2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 19, through Friday, Feb. 21. The aforementioned Bethany Owen does Country Queens, her all-country show, at 2 p.m., Wednesday through Friday, from Wednesday, Feb. 26, through Friday, March 28. All shows $19 to $26. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-775-5200; www.indioperformingartscenter.org.

Invasion of Privacy—from Dezart Performs

This drama is based on the real 1946 case of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who was sued by her friend Zelma Cason for libel and the right to privacy. At 7:30 p.m., Friday; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 31, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; www.dezartperforms.com.

McCallum Theatre

Sing-Along Sound of Music is a screening of the Julie Andrews film musical—with subtitles so the audience can croon along—at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 2; $15. The Moscow Festival Ballet performs Don Quixote at 8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 3; $29 to $69. The Best of Broadway Featuring the Songs of Andrew Lloyd Webber happens at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 7; and 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8; $25 to $75. Rigoletto, Giuseppe Verdi’s 1851 classic that studies the contrasts between good and evil, is at 8 p.m., Monday, Feb. 10; $49 to $69. Chita: A Legendary Celebration features the great Chita Rivera in a solo concert celebrating her 80th birthday, at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 21; $45 to $75. L.A. Theatre Works presents The Graduate at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 25; $25 to $55. Sally Struthers stars in the classic Hello, Dolly! at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, March 1; and 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, March 2; $35 to $105. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Palm Canyon Theatre

The classic musical Les Miserables is produced by the downtown Palm Springs mainstay, at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 9. Confessions of a Prairie B*tch stars Alison Arngrim—Nellie Oleson from Little House on the Prairie—giving “audiences a reality check on the facts of life like no one else has ever done before, but sure as hell should’ve,” at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14 and 15; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 16. 9 to 5 takes the adventures of Violet, Doralee and Judy from the movie to the stage, at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Sunday, March 9. $32; $10 students/children (call the box office). At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

A Perfect Ganesh—from Coachella Valley Repertory

CV Rep’s season focusing on the works of Terrence McNally continues with this show about two middle-aged women throwing themselves into a tour of India. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $40. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Theatre 29

Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest focuses on country gentleman Jack Worthing and his imaginary big-city brother, Earnest. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Feb. 8, with an additional matinee at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 2. The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Town’s Women's Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, a story about a theater’s opening night gone terribly wrong, takes place at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Feb. 28, through Saturday, March 29, with additional matinees at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 9 and 23. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

You Wouldn’t Expect—from Script2Stage2Screen

Yve Evans stars in this play regarding North Carolina’s eugenics law, which subjected people to forced sterilization—many of them black women. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Feb. 21 and 22. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

Annenberg Theater (Including Coyote StageWorks)

Dance for Life is a showcase of performances by renowned dance companies to benefit the AIDS Assistance Program, at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17. $95; $200 VIP. Tony nominee Christine Andreas performs her one-woman show be-Mused at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18. $60 to $75. Coyote StageWorks’ star-studded fundraiser performance of The Man Who Came to Dinner takes place at 6 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19. $75 to $500. Coyote StageWorks’ The Andrews Brothers, a salute to the swinging ’40s, is performed at various times Wednesday through Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 16. $39 to $55. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org/annenberg-theater.

Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch—from Desert Theatreworks

Blazing Guns at Roaring Gulch … Or the Perfumed Badge: An Ol’ Fashion’ Melodrama is the latest show by the new Desert Theatreworks. At 7 p.m., Friday; 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 2. $25; $23 students; special kids’ prices and group rates available. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455; www.dtworks.org.

Country Royalty: A Musical Tribute to Hank Williams and Patsy Cline

Hank Williams: Lost Highway star Jason Petty plays Hank Williams, while Grammy-nominated Carolyn Martin performs as Patsy Cline, backed by a live band, at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10. $15 to $45. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

The Importance of Being Earnest—from Theatre 29

Oscar Wilde’s classic focuses on country gentleman Jack Worthing and his imaginary big-city brother, Earnest. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Jan. 10, through Saturday, Feb. 8, with additional matinees at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19 and Feb. 2. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151; theatre29.org.

Indian Wells Theater/CSUSB Palm Desert Events

I Do, I Do!, a concert version of the musical, features Joyce Bulifant and Roger Perry; it’s a benefit for the CSUSB Autism Program, at 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17. $50. A tribute concert featuring “The Piano Men”—Elton John, Ray Charles, Billy Joel and Little Richard—takes place at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18. $40 for first three rows; $35 for the remainder of the house. An afternoon Pops! concert featuring Yve Evans and the All Star Big Band occurs at 2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26. $50.At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventstheater.html.

Invasion of Privacy—from Dezart Performs

This drama is based on the real 1946 case of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who was sued by her friend Zelma Cason for libel and the right to privacy. At 7:30 p.m., Friday; 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 31, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179; www.dezartperforms.com.

Les Miserables—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

The classic musical is produced by the downtown Palm Springs mainstay. 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $32; $10 students/children (call the box office). At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123; www.palmcanyontheatre.org.

Luis Bravo’s Forever Tango

The Broadway hit features 14 tango dancers, a vocalist and an 11-piece orchestra. 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 11; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 12. $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Man of La Mancha

Enter the mind and world of Don Quixote as he pursues his quest for the impossible dream in this renowned musical. 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 24; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 26. $35 to $105. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Nite Club Confidential—from the Desert Rose Playhouse

The midcentury modern film noir musical stars Joey English as Kay Goodman. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 10, through Sunday, Feb. 16. (The Saturday, Feb. 8, show is a 2 p.m. matinee.) $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000; www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

A Perfect Ganesh—from Coachella Valley Repertory

CV Rep’s season focusing on the works of Terrence McNally continues with this show about two middle-aged women throwing themselves into a tour of India. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, Jan. 22, through Sunday, Feb. 9. $35 preview (Jan. 22 and 23); $40 regular; $50 opening night (Jan. 24). At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966; www.cvrep.org.

Similar Journeys—from Script2Stage2Screen

Similar Journeys, a play by Palm Springs playwright Robert Abrami, features a cast of six characters in denial, in love, in crises, and in the process of defining their own lives. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 10 and 11. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938; www.script2stage2screen.com.

Published in Theater and Dance